African union sometime ago launched a two-year campaign to curb child marriage in all the African countries and other developing countries. According to the union, about fourteen million girls below the age of 18 are forced into marriage each year by their parents in developing countries of which most of these countries are in Africa, where at least 30 percent of girls are married before age 18, often against their will. While the union is working tirelessly and relentlessly calling for reform to see that this gruesome practice shielded under the umbrella of custom and tradition is entirely erased from our world today, a new discovery shows that some young girls at the age of 10 and below still face this ordeal in some parts of Kenya.
Recently, the East African Centre for Law and Justice (EACLJ), one of UN’s international affiliates in Africa, assisted in rescuing two young girls facing mutilation and a form of sex slavery as child brides, and they are working to end this savage and cruel act.
As we already know, girls especially teens between 10 to 14 years old, often have wide cherished aspirations while hoping to find the ideal career of their dreams. They actively work hard to enroll in the best high schools to further their education trying to better their life. However, this is not so for girls from Samburu, a county in northern Kenya. The reality for these young girls seem to be in contrast to that of young girls from other parts of the country. A young girl from Samburu who is up to 10 years or even younger is primed for marriage to an older person, often a man who is the same age as her father and in some cases grandfather whom they become second, third, or even fourth wives to. These young girls are married off by their fathers and uncles in exchange for just eight cows, which is usually given to the girl’s father and uncles as bride price.
Most of these girls come from poorly educated families and rural areas where girls cannot oppose the cultural norms of the family and community. They are usually pulled out of school by their parents to get married, and sometimes get beaten by their husbands if they refuse sexual advances. When they run back to their parents, they would still get more beating and are sent back to their husbands. But definitely not for the brave ones who report some of these cases.
On July 7, 2015, After United Nations partnered with Josephine Kulea of the Samburu Girls’ Foundation, the East African Centre for Law and Justice (EACLJ) staff took a trip to Samburu County to save two young girls from such an ordeal. When they got there, one of the girls, just 13 years old, had at that time been married off to the chief of the area, who is a 53-year-old man. The other girl was set to be married off just four days later.
Keep in mind that when a girl is married in the Samburu traditional culture, she is under compulsion to undergo the awful practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) on the morning of the ceremony before she will be handed over to her new husband. Also note that Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is against the law in Kenya.
Quite regrettably the young girl who by force was married to the chief had already undergone FGM and was living with the chief. But she was rescued on July 8, 2015 by the team, with the help of Mararal Police. Following the rescue mission, the police detained her husband, the area chief while she was taken to the hospital for a medical checkup. The doctors discovered she suffered from anemia resulting from the amount of blood she lost during the FGM process.
The next day, the chief was indicted in court and was charged with two count charges including marrying an underage girl and aiding in the FGM of the young girl. He pleaded not guilty and the court handed him a 700,000 shillings bond, as well as a surety of the same amount. The case will continue in August 2015.
The second girl was scheduled to be mutilated on the following Saturday morning and the team therefore had to act as fast as possible to get to the place before the marriage ceremony will hold. They were able to save the young innocent girl full of life and aspirations on July 10, 2015, a day before her predetermined wedding and FMG ceremony was supposed to take place. As luck would have it, this young girl has an exceptionally brave and caring brother who assisted the team to rescue the prospective young bride by concealing her from their father and then bringing her to the District Officer’s (D.O.) office to wait for the team.
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The two girls as of now are in a private and safe school where they will be taken care of and offered educational opportunities. In spite of their rocky pasts which are brimming with traumas, they will now be able to aspire for a bright future full of opportunities. The EACLJ is ever set to proceed with being a huge part of the rescue missions in Samburu.
So far, Josephine Kulea of the Samburu Girls Foundation has managed to rescue more than 200 girls from been child brides which is often called early marriages, beading, and FGM. She depends largely on the cooperative attitudes of the family members and their friends, and also neighbors who report such cases to her before and after they occur to achieve these rescue missions successfully. Despite the fact that such rescues are culturally seen as betrayals and disloyalty to the local customs and traditions, the EACLJ is still committed to partnering with Josephine Kulea and the Samburu Girls Foundation to save even more girls, to make sure that each girl is granted a chance to dream big.
These rescue missions are complicated by poor roads and poor communication networks in Samburu County.
The EACLJ will also be involved legally, using the judicial system in order to discourage people from engaging in such illegal behavior. As a matter of fact, the EACLJ filed to join a Constitution Petition at the Nakuru High Court as Interested Parties on July 27, 2015. The petitioners in this case seek to bar the Magistrate Court, the Director of Public Prosecution, and the Police in Mararal-Samburu from prosecuting a 54-year-old man who married a 14-year-old girl. The EACLJ will argue why such prosecutions are mandated under both Kenyan law and its international obligations to protect the innocence of young girls within Kenyan borders.
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The EACLJ is committed to providing protections for innocent children, dismantling an environment of impunity for child marriage and FGM, and protecting the brave government officials who seek to protect the life, freedom and liberty of the Samburu girls.
Girls married at a young age usually have mental anguish, suffer health problems due to early pregnancies and are less likely to get an education, so you are urged to report such cases if you are around where it is about to happen to save the future of these young girls.